It's been so long since I lived in the US that I can't remember how nutty it can or can't get at the shops on any afternoon.
I remember trying to park at The Mall around Christmas time and being horrified that I had to park in the neighbouring state, but other than that, shopping just seemed to be done with a flowing mass of humanity around you. Not a crushing sea like you find here.
The French are sticklers for their daily routine and be it a weekend or a weekday, you can comfortable predict what the crowds will be like in any shop or public venue. Mornings, calm. Afternoons, it's like people think it's Christmas and the January sales all rolled into one.
For example, I hauled the tribe to the only indoor playarea not attached to a fast food restaurant in France and knew that if we got there after 1:30pm, we would be surrounded by hordes of kids and their desperate parents who were at wits end looking for something to do these last days of school vacation.
Me and my English speaking cohorts successfully managed to get there during lunch time when it was basically just our people running, screaming, and hanging off the climbing frame. (Funnily enough, the only other family there turned out to be English as well.) See, we know that the French hate sacrificing lunch. It goes against the whole, "do a bit at home in the morning, have a good lunch, and then attack" mentality I've grown to love.
This even happens with sporting events. Take The 15K at Le Puy en Velay. The race starts at 3:30pm. Enough time to enjoy that three course lunch, digest over coffee, and then lace up your shoes and sprint 15K around a hilly city. Pourquoi pas?
After we dodged the crowds at the playarea, the 10 of us English speaking lovelies (3 mamas, 7 kids) headed to the restaurant next door to the playarea and enjoyed a relatively quiet and calm lunch. The only down side were the slightly evil looks from the staff who had though their lunch rush was well and truly over until we walked in.
I had to head back into the playarea after lunch to find Mini-Husband's sweater. I pushed past the line spilling out the front door and asked the man dressed as a giant squirrel if I could go look for the sweater. I made it through the entrance only to be hit full force with a wall of screaming, jumping, sweating, exploding children. The place was packed.
It was 2:30pm and the French had attacked.
I yelled "surrender" as I fought my way to the exit without even worrying about the sweater. Silently, I thanked my lucky stars that I've started to understand the daily ritual in my adopted county. I feel like I've figured out a way to enjoy the sea without having to swim in it.
Though, I could always be tempted by a nice run after lunch...